AW Blog Chain March 2014.
This month’s prompt: Lions and Lambs
Do you have a character who is lionlike and fierce? Do you have a character who is lamblike and gentle? Put them in a scene together and see what happens!
Peig and Cuss
Sitting at the cheap office table, legs dangling inches above the ground was a little girl.She was humming to herself and looking down at the table. Kid was wearing one of them snorkel jackets, zipped up all the way and with the hood up too, so the humming was all muffled and I couldn’t see her face.
I was confused. This had to be the wrong room. Cam wouldn’t have brought me all the way here to get help from a kid even younger than me.
“Excuse me miss, is your name Joy?”, I asked.
The kid looked up and I saw that it wasn’t a kid. It was an old lady. A very old lady. She unzipped the hood of her parka and pushed it down to revel stringy grey hair held up in ponytails tied with pink ribbons. She sized me up and very slowly and deliberately said, “Nu inteleg.”
I tried to remember the phrase Cam taught me, “Knee higgum”.
She came back at me real quick, “Bhfuil Gaelige agat?”
The old woman tilted her head to one side, “Espanol?”
I understood that one but I didn’t feel like saying knee higgum again since I didn’t even know what it meant, so my answer was a headshake and “Una poca.”
The woman smiled, “Deutsch?”
She could have been asking about Dutch or German, but since I don’t speak neither one I guessed it didn’t much matter. I just stood there and waited for the next question.
The old woman stared me down for a minute and finally said, “So, it’ll have to be the English then.” She sounded disappointed.
I shrugged, “If that’s okay by you, ma’am. I don’t reckon I could hold much of a conversation any other way.”
“Ah. Well, I’m not after a conversation, but I’ll ask in English, if it’ll get me answers.”
I nodded, “Okay.”
“Who are you, girleen?”
“My name’s Cu-“
“Not your name, couldn’t care less about that. Who are you?”
“Um… I guess I’m just some kid.”
“You guess, or you know?”
“I know. I am.”
“And what type of kid are you?”
I had to think about that one before answering. I could’ve been a smartass about it, but I didn’t think she’d appreciate that one bit. She was sitting there all judgy-like, them small eyes never moving from my face.
“Is that a hard question?” she asked when I didn’t answer quick enough.
“It’s just hard to answer when I ain’t never really thought on it,” I told her, “I am who I am. I’m me. But I know that ain’t what you’re asking. You want to know what makes me me….”
The woman nodded, eyes boring into me like momma’s used to. Made my skin prickle and my palms itch.
I took a minute to figure out what she might have wanted to hear, “My daddy left before I was born. My momma’s dead. My brother took sick so they put him in a hospital. He has somethin’ wrong with how he thinks. That was in the back-before, then everything went to heck. I came through it all okay because I had money from my momma’s will, and a guardian looking out for me and the folks we’ve met along the way. I met Cam when she tried to, uh, liberate some of our books. She told me you might be able to help me find my brother…the hospital’s gone now and I don’t know what happened to him.”
The woman nodded. “So you’re a sister in search of your brother. How old are you?”
I didn’t know what my age had to do with anything, but I figured it’d be best to keep playing nice, “I’m thirteen, ma’am.”
“Did you never think of using that money of yours to find your brother?”
“I did. We hired people. Elias even went looking his own self. We found a friend of his from the hospital, but that’s all we could do. She lives with us now.”
“Who is this Elias person?”
“He’s my guardian, ma’am. Court appointed, from when they still had courts.”
She thought on that for a moment. Then, “Do you think I can magically produce your brother? Do you think I have him held captive?” all accusing-like.
I blinked at her. “No. Like I said, Cam told me you might be able to help”
“And how long have you known Cam?”
“Less than a day.”
“And you take her word that I’m someone who would be likely to help?”
“Ain’t got no reason not to trust her.”
The old woman nodded, “Not many people think that way these days. What about the people you’ve helped, tell me about them?”
“Ain’t much to tell. I had money and land, didn’t make no sense not to open it up to folks who needed somewhere to stay. It’s no big thing.”
“I doubt Cam would agree with you on that. I certainly don’t. What is it you need from me?”
“Caleb, my brother, can’t be out there on his own. He was in that hospital from he was twelve. He don’t know the world and this world won’t be kind to him. I need to find him. I need to make sure he’s okay.” I didn’t know what else to say. My voice had gone all shaky-sad and I could feel tears coming so I stopped talking. Last thing I wanted was some weird old lady watching me cry.
She stood up and walked over to me, ponytails swinging as she moved.
Up close she was less wizened than I’d thought, and her eyes were full of mischief: “What would you say if I told you I’m not the one you came to see?”
For those who asked, the extended version is here.
AW-ers taking part in this month’s chain: